I have noticed that there seem to be many words that have travelled the globe due to trade, such as the word orange or rice, which have plausible origins in proto-Dravidian. Meanwhile, it is hypothesized that the language (if it is a language, which some people argue against) recorded in the Indus script is a Dravidian one. All this makes me wonder if these numerous possibly-Dravidian Wanderworts are indicative of the Indus Valley Civilization's success in trade.

This page of Wikipedia lists 7 English words with possible Dravidian origins, notably:

  • Orange, through Old French orenge, Medieval Latin orenge and Italian arancia from Arabic نارنج naranj, via Persian نارنگ narang and Sanskrit नारङ्ग naranga-s meaning "an orange tree", derived from proto-Dravidian.
  • Rice, via Old French ris and Italian riso from Latin oriza, which is from Greek ὄρυζα oryza, through an Indo-Iranian tongue finally from Sanskrit व्रीहिस् vrihi-s "rice", derived from proto-Dravidian.
  • Sugar, through Old French sucre, Italian zucchero, Medieval Latin succarum, Arabic: سكر sukkar and Persian: شکر shakar ultimately from Sanskrit शर्करा sharkara which means "ground or candied sugar" (originally "grit" or "gravel"), from proto-Dravidian.

So, is it likely that the Dravidian language that these words came from is the language of the Indus Valley Civilization? Is this a poor, uninformed idea? or, alternatively, am I late to the party and this is already intuitively obvious to historians? What are your thoughts?

  • 2
    Did the Indus Valley civilization eat oranges, rice, and sugar? This webpage says they ate barley, melon, and pomegranates, but I suppose they could have eaten oranges and rice as well. Anyway, it's not an English question, so we probably will close it. You could ask it on linguistics.SE. Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 15:50
  • 6
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about English but proto-Dravidian. Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 15:55
  • 1
    @PeterShor I agree, but I asked this elsewhere and they referred me here saying that the historical linguists hang out here. I also initially thought it would not be suited for a discussion of English, but what they said made sense and I figured it was worth a try.
    – mhenderson
    Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 18:03
  • This question asks about the possibly shared etymology of 3 English words: orange, rice and sugar. How is that off-topic?
    – JEL
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 4:16


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